FIFTEEN years ago, the idea of a field in Newton Aycliffe becoming an £82m train building factory employing more than 1,000 people seemed far-fetched.

But local MPs, led by Phil Wilson, Durham County Council, developers, businesses, and The Northern Echo dared to dream, and the Hitachi factory now stands as a testament to what can be achieved when the region pulls together.

It would be easy to scoff at the idea of sites in the North-East and North Yorkshire being chosen as “logistic hubs” for the multi-billion pound construction of Heathrow Airport’s third runway. However, the region has proved it has the skills and drive to succeed, so why couldn’t Severfield at Dalton, near Thirsk, Tarmac’s Thrislington works at Ferryhill, and the former SSI site in Redcar make the cut when the long list of 65 is whittled down to four?

Loading article content

The SSI site bid from the Tees Valley Combined Authority is particularly intriguing, especially given the current state of the land – empty aside from the rusting former steelworks.

The fact it is being spearhead by Conservative Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen stands in its favour. The Government has yet to fully sign off Heathrow’s expansion – the public consultation has been reopened for new evidence to be considered and will be the subject of a vote in Parliament next year.

In the next general election, whenever that might be, Mr Houchen and his record will be key to any Conservative campaigning in the North-East, so it is in the Government’s interests to give him a strong platform.

Heathrow itself will make the final decision, but this project and the investment it would bring could be that platform. Stranger things have happened – just look at Hitachi.